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Thread: finger length vs. smaller hands vs. mandola or larger ...

  1. #1
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    Default finger length vs. smaller hands vs. mandola or larger ...

    I am ready to make a purchase of an 18" (scale length) mandola or a 23" (s. l.) tenor guitar. I play a viola, somewhat poorly at present but I'm learning, and find the finger stretch to be just about what I can manage comfortably. It is a 16" (body measurement) Baroque viola. The string length, nut to bridge, is 14 1/2".

    To those who know about such things, or to those who have smaller hands and/or finger reach, or perhaps another violist, would I be out of my league buying either of the above mentioned instruments? I can't afford to make a mistake on this purchase, monetarily. Also it is a present to myself for my early June 68th birthday. Yeah, an old fart but a quite healthy old fart so I'll probably be around long enough to actually learn a mand-whatever.

    Will I be reduced to mandolin only (not the end of the world of course), or perhaps a 5-string mandolin would have a shorter reach or am I thinking wrong about the whole thing and just lack experience in actual playing anything from a mandolin to a mandocello? I intend to be a finger-picker, if that makes a difference.

    Any help and/or advice will be very welcome.

    Thank you.

    germano
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    Unfamous String Buster Beanzy's Avatar
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    Default Re: finger length vs. smaller hands vs. mandola or larger ...

    I play cello so probably don't have the reach problems you seem to find. However on larger instruments like cello we tend to shift position more and only do extensions if they don't merit the shift. I've found I do the same now I'm on TG as well, where on the mandolin I'm doing stretches for chords which I've not had to try on the cello.

    My personal take is that you'll only have issues when you need to do chords, which can be got around with double-stops and muting of unplayed strings.

    Another consideration would be the fretting of double as against single courses if your finger tips are also small. A TG is better for this as there's only one.
    Last edited by Beanzy; May-05-2012 at 4:52am.
    Eoin



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    mandolin's Lord Voldemort mandocrucian's Avatar
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    Default Re: finger length vs. smaller hands vs. mandola or larger ...

    So....on the mandola, you'll have to use your pinky on the 6th fret. So what?

    Or on the tenor guitar, it'll bechromatic (one-fret-per-finger) fingering. Again, so.....? (You can always revert to mandolin/violin fingering higher up on the neck where the fret distances and more compressed.)

    You just make some adjustments (fingering-wise). Don't sweat it.

    NH

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    Work in Progress Ed Goist's Avatar
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    Default Re: finger length vs. smaller hands vs. mandola or larger ...

    As mandocrucian points out, the adjustment is easier than expected. After some time playing you'll find you'll adjust your fingering patterns without even thinking about it.

    One thing I will mention, on a longer scale instrument, a thinner (front to back) neck profile can be very handy. We often forget that the "non-finger portion" of our hand also helps our reach, and on an instrument with a low-profile neck more of one's hand will be above the fretboard, and therefore stretches will be a little easier.
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    Default Re: finger length vs. smaller hands vs. mandola or larger ...

    I was expecting problems when I converted from mandolin to octave mandolin a whole week and a half ago. After a couple of hours, I had it more or less sussed. Its difficult to get the same speed up - but would you really want to?

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    Registered User John Kelly's Avatar
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    Default Re: finger length vs. smaller hands vs. mandola or larger ...

    All the above advice and observations are very useful; as Ray(T) says conversion is not as difficult as you might think. I actually found "standard" mandolin scale length and nut width a bit tight for my liking so I build my instruments with slightly longer scale and wider nut. You'll find that hand size is maybe less important than flexibility - how well do your fingers stretch when playing? I have a colleague, a professional music teacher and pianist, whose hands are much smaller than mine but he can span from middle C to the E above the octave when he needs to; just a case of working on exercises and keeping his fingers in good order.
    Mandocrucian note the differences in fretting on an instrument where you cover a fret per finger (bouzouki, guitar,etc) and those where you cover 2 frets per finger; this can cause some slips when you are moving between instruments but again it resolves itself with practice.

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    ...but that's just me Bertram Henze's Avatar
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    Default Re: finger length vs. smaller hands vs. mandola or larger ...

    Like the others have said: don't adapt your instrument to your body, let your body adapt to the instrument - that's what it's good at.

    Instrument sizes vary so much more than hand sizes - if that were an issue, most of them were unplayable.
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    Default Re: finger length vs. smaller hands vs. mandola or larger ...

    What style of music are you hoping to play on the new aquisition? It's worth baring in mind if you're a Baroque enthusiast and you want to play fretted versions of Bach Partitas, you're not going to be able to do them on tenor guitar. On the other hand, if you fancy trying something different there's no reason you won't be able to cope with the longer scale lengths baring in mind the styles they're designed to be played in.

    For my regular band I generally find myself switching between viola, mandola and tenor guitar and have no problem adjusting to the differing string lengths. They do make me think differently about how I approach them, but to me that's all fuel for the creative process rather than anything to put me off!

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